Tom Nelson took over the presidency of the Minnesota State Bar Association in mid-2019, little knowing that the state’s legal community was in for one of its most dynamic years in recent memory.
Just before he took on the presidency, the association consolidated with two county bar associations. Then in March, after Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency, Nelson worked with the MSBA and judicial staff to address necessary changes to court procedures in response to the COVID-19 situation. Nelson also worked with staff to look for legislative relief to suspend some deadlines in light of COVID-19. Two months later, he led the
MSBA’s response to the death of George Floyd.
“My main notion was that the MSBA has the opportunity and obligation to lead, speak for, serve, support and connect the legal profession in Minnesota,” said Nelson. “It was as important to make sure that membership was in fact valuable to the members and the profession, as it was to remind the legal community that the MSBA is worthy of support because it advances and articulates the values of the legal profession and community.”
Nelson also led the MSBA’s support of the posthumous pardon of Max Mason, a Black man wrongly convicted by an all-white jury of an alleged rape in Duluth. That same alleged crime led to the mob lynching of three other Black men in 1920.
Nelson took full advantage of his platform via a monthly column for MSBA members. Those columns included the obligation and opportunity of public service and citizenship, access to justice, the right to vote, the rule of law, the Duluth lynchings, the coronavirus, pro bono work and other topics.
“I especially appreciated the chance to write monthly columns on matters that matter to me and, I believe, to the profession and the community,” said Nelson.
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2020 here.
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